The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861
A History of the Education of the Colored People of the United States from the Beginning of Slavery to the Civil War
About two years ago the author decided to set forth in a small volume the leading facts of the development of Negro education, thinking that he would have to deal largely with the movement since the Civil War. In looking over documents for material to furnish a background for recent achievements in this field, he discovered that he would write a much more interesting book should he confine himself to the ante-bellum period. In fact, the accounts of the successful strivings of Negroes for enlightenment under most adverse circumstances read like beautiful romances of a people in an heroic age.
Interesting as is this phase of the history of the American Negro, it has as a field of profitable research attracted only M.B. Goodwin, who published in the Special Report of the United States Commissioner of Education of 1871 an exhaustive History of the Schools for the Colored Population in the District of Columbia. In that same document was included a survey of the Legal Status of the Colored Population in Respect to Schools and Education in the Different States. But although the author of the latter collected a mass of valuable material, his report is neither comprehensive nor thorough. Other publications touching this subject have dealt either with certain localities or special phases.
Yet evident as may be the failure of scholars to treat this neglected aspect of our history, the author of this dissertation is far from presuming that he has exhausted the subject. With the hope of vitally interesting some young master mind in this large task, the undersigned has endeavored to narrate in brief how benevolent teachers of both races strove to give the ante-bellum Negroes the education through which many of them gained freedom in its highest and best sense.
The author desires to acknowledge his indebtedness to Dr. J.E. Moorland, International Secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association, for valuable information concerning the Negroes of Ohio.
Washington, D.C. June 11, 1919.
II.—Religion with Letters
III.—Education as a Right of Man
VI.—Educating the Urban Negro
VIII.—Religion without Letters
IX.—Learning in Spite of Opposition
X.—Educating Negroes Transplanted to Free Soil
XIII.—Education at Public Expense
The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861
* * * * *
Brought from the African wilds to constitute the laboring class of a pioneering society in the new world, the heathen slaves had to be trained to meet the needs of their environment. It required little argument to convince intelligent masters that slaves who had some conception of modern civilization and understood the language of their owners would be more valuable than rude men with whom one could not communicate. The questions, however, as to exactly what kind of training these Negroes should have, and how far it should go, were to the white race then as much a matter of perplexity as they are now. Yet, believing that slaves could not be enlightened without developing in them a longing for liberty, not a few masters maintained that the more brutish the bondmen the more pliant they become for purposes of exploitation. It was this class of slaveholders that finally won the majority of southerners to their way of thinking and determined that Negroes should not be educated.
The history of the education of the ante-bellum Negroes, therefore, falls into two periods. The first extends from the time of the introduction of slavery to the climax of the insurrectionary movement about 1835, when the majority of the people in this country answered in the affirmative the question whether or not it was prudent to educate their slaves. Then followed the second period, when the industrial revolution changed slavery from a patriarchal to an economic institution, and when intelligent Negroes, encouraged by abolitionists, made so many attempts to organize servile insurrections that the pendulum began to swing the other way. By this time most southern white people reached the conclusion that it was impossible to cultivate the minds of Negroes without arousing overmuch self-assertion.
The early advocates of the education of Negroes were of three classes: first, masters who desired to increase the economic efficiency of their labor supply; second, sympathetic persons who wished to help the oppressed; and third, zealous missionaries who, believing that the message of divine love came equally to all, taught slaves the English language that they might learn the principles of the Christian religion. Through the kindness of the first class, slaves had their best chance for mental improvement. Each slaveholder dealt with the situation to suit himself, regardless of public opinion. Later, when measures were passed to prohibit the education of slaves, some masters, always a law unto themselves, continued to teach their Negroes in defiance of the hostile legislation. Sympathetic persons were not able to accomplish much because they were usually reformers, who not only did not own slaves, but dwelt in practically free settlements far from the plantations on which the bondmen lived.
The Spanish and French missionaries, the first to face this problem, set an example which influenced the education of the Negroes throughout America. Some of these early heralds of Catholicism manifested more interest in the Indians than in the Negroes, and advocated the enslavement of the Africans rather than that of the Red Men. But being anxious to see the Negroes enlightened and brought into the Church, they courageously directed their attention to the teaching of their slaves, provided for the instruction of the numerous mixed-breed offspring, and granted freedmen the educational privileges of the highest classes. Put to shame by this noble example of the Catholics, the English colonists had to find a way to overcome the objections of those who, granting that the enlightenment of the slaves might not lead to servile insurrection, nevertheless feared that their conversion might work manumission. To meet this exigency the colonists secured, through legislation by their assemblies and formal declarations of the Bishop of London, the abrogation of the law that a Christian could not be held as a slave. Then allowed access to the bondmen, the missionaries of the Church of England, sent out by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Heathen in Foreign Parts, undertook to educate the slaves for the purpose of extensive proselyting.
Contemporaneous with these early workers of the Established Church of England were the liberal Puritans, who directed their attention to the conversion of the slaves long before this sect advocated abolition. Many of this connection justified slavery as established by the precedent of the Hebrews, but they felt that persons held to service should be instructed as were the servants of the household of Abraham. The progress of the cause was impeded, however, by the bigoted class of Puritans, who did not think well of the policy of incorporating undesirable persons into the Church so closely connected then with the state. The first settlers of the American colonies to offer Negroes the same educational and religious privileges they provided for persons of their own race, were the Quakers. Believing in the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God, they taught the colored people to read their own "instruction in the book of the law that they might be wise unto salvation."
Encouraging as was the aspect of things after these early efforts, the contemporary complaints about the neglect to instruct the slaves show that the cause lacked something to make the movement general. Then came the days when the struggle for the rights of man was arousing the civilized world. After 1760 the nascent social doctrine found response among the American colonists. They looked with opened eyes at the Negroes. A new day then dawned for the dark-skinned race. Men like Patrick Henry and James Otis, who demanded liberty for themselves, could not but concede that slaves were entitled at least to freedom of body. The frequent acts of manumission and emancipation which followed upon this change in attitude toward persons of color, turned loose upon society a large number of men whose chief needs were education and training in the duties of citizenship. To enlighten these freedmen schools, missions, and churches were established by benevolent and religious workers. These colaborers included at this time the Baptists and Methodists who, thanks to the spirit of toleration incident to the Revolution, were allowed access to Negroes bond and free.
With all of these new opportunities Negroes exhibited a rapid mental development. Intelligent colored men proved to be useful and trustworthy servants; they became much better laborers and artisans, and many of them showed administrative ability adequate to the management of business establishments and large plantations. Moreover, better rudimentary education served many ambitious persons of color as a stepping-stone to higher attainments. Negroes learned to appreciate and write poetry and contributed something to mathematics, science, and philosophy. Furthermore, having disproved the theories of their mental inferiority, some of the race, in conformity with the suggestion of Cotton Mather, were employed to teach white children.
Observing these evidences of a general uplift of the Negroes, certain educators advocated the establishment of special colored schools. The founding of these institutions, however, must not be understood as a movement to separate the children of the races on account of caste prejudice. The dual system resulted from an effort to meet the needs peculiar to a people just emerging from bondage. It was easily seen that their education should no longer be dominated by religion. Keeping the past of the Negroes in mind, their friends tried to unite the benefits of practical and cultural education. The teachers of colored schools offered courses in the industries along with advanced work in literature, mathematics, and science. Girls who specialized in sewing took lessons in French.
So startling were the rapid strides made by the colored people in their mental development after the revolutionary era that certain southerners who had not seriously objected to the enlightenment of the Negroes began to favor the half reactionary policy of educating them only on the condition that they should be colonized. The colonization movement, however, was supported also by some white men who, seeing the educational progress of the colored people during the period of better beginnings, felt that they should be given an opportunity to be transplanted to a free country where they might develop without restriction.
Timorous southerners, however, soon had other reasons for their uncharitable attitude. During the first quarter of the nineteenth century two effective forces were rapidly increasing the number of reactionaries who by public opinion gradually prohibited the education of the colored people in all places except certain urban communities where progressive Negroes had been sufficiently enlightened to provide their own school facilities. The first of these forces was the worldwide industrial movement. It so revolutionized spinning and weaving that the resulting increased demand for cotton fiber gave rise to the plantation system of the South, which required a larger number of slaves. Becoming too numerous to be considered as included in the body politic as conceived by Locke, Montesquieu, and Blackstone, the slaves were generally doomed to live without any enlightenment whatever. Thereafter rich planters not only thought it unwise to educate men thus destined to live on a plane with beasts, but considered it more profitable to work a slave to death during seven years and buy another in his stead than to teach and humanize him with a view to increasing his efficiency.
The other force conducive to reaction was the circulation through intelligent Negroes of antislavery accounts of the wrongs to colored people and the well portrayed exploits of Toussaint L'Ouverture. Furthermore, refugees from Haiti settled in Baltimore, Norfolk, Charleston, and New Orleans, where they gave Negroes a first-hand story of how black men of the West Indies had righted their wrongs. At the same time certain abolitionists and not a few slaveholders were praising, in the presence of slaves, the bloody methods of the French Revolution. When this enlightenment became productive of such disorders that slaveholders lived in eternal dread of servile insurrection, Southern States adopted the thoroughly reactionary policy of making the education of Negroes impossible.
The prohibitive legislation extended over a period of more than a century, beginning with the act of South Carolina in 1740. But with the exception of the action of this State and that of Georgia the important measures which actually proscribed the teaching of Negroes were enacted during the first four decades of the nineteenth century. The States attacked the problem in various ways. Colored people beyond a certain number were not allowed to assemble for social or religious purposes, unless in the presence of certain "discreet" white men; slaves were deprived of the helpful contact of free persons of color by driving them out of some Southern States; masters who had employed their favorite blacks in positions which required a knowledge of bookkeeping, printing, and the like, were commanded by law to discontinue that custom; and private and public teachers were prohibited from assisting Negroes to acquire knowledge in any manner whatever.
The majority of the people of the South had by this time come to the conclusion that, as intellectual elevation unfits men for servitude and renders it impossible to retain them in this condition, it should be interdicted. In other words, the more you cultivate the minds of slaves, the more unserviceable you make them; you give them a higher relish for those privileges which they cannot attain and turn what you intend for a blessing into a curse. If they are to remain in slavery they should be kept in the lowest state of ignorance and degradation, and the nearer you bring them to the condition of brutes the better chance they have to retain their apathy. It had thus been brought to pass that the measures enacted to prevent the education of Negroes had not only forbidden association with their fellows for mutual help and closed up most colored schools in the South, but had in several States made it a crime for a Negro to teach his own children.
The contrast of conditions at the close of this period with those of former days is striking. Most slaves who were once counted as valuable, on account of their ability to read and write the English language, were thereafter considered unfit for service in the South and branded as objects of suspicion. Moreover, when within a generation or so the Negroes began to retrograde because they had been deprived of every elevating influence, the white people of the South resorted to their old habit of answering their critics with the bold assertion that the effort to enlighten the blacks would prove futile on account of their mental inferiority. The apathy which these bondmen, inured to hardships, consequently developed was referred to as adequate evidence that they were content with their lot, and that any effort to teach them to know their real condition would be productive of mischief both to the slaves and their masters.
The reactionary movement, however, was not confined to the South. The increased migration of fugitives and free Negroes to the asylum of Northern States, caused certain communities of that section to feel that they were about to be overrun by undesirable persons who could not be easily assimilated. The subsequent anti-abolition riots in the North made it difficult for friends of the Negroes to raise funds to educate them. Free persons of color were not allowed to open schools in some places, teachers of Negroes were driven from their stations, and colored schoolhouses were burned.
Ashamed to play the role of a Christian clergy guarding silence on the indispensable duty of saving the souls of the colored people, certain of the most influential southern ministers hit upon the scheme of teaching illiterate Negroes the principles of Christianity by memory training or the teaching of religion without letters. This the clergy were wont to call religious instruction. The word instruction, however, as used in various documents, is rather confusing. Before the reactionary period all instruction of the colored people included the teaching of the rudiments of education as a means to convey Christian thought. But with the exception of a few Christians the southerners thereafter used the word instruction to signify the mere memorizing of principles from the most simplified books. The sections of the South in which the word instruction was not used in this restricted sense were mainly the settlements of Quakers and Catholics who, in defiance of the law, persisted in teaching Negroes to read and write. Yet it was not uncommon to find others who, after having unsuccessfully used their influence against the enactment of these reactionary laws, boldly defied them by instructing the Negroes of their communities. Often opponents to this custom winked at it as an indulgence to the clerical profession. Many Scotch-Irish of the Appalachian Mountains and liberal Methodists and Baptists of the Western slave States did not materially change their attitude toward the enlightenment of the colored people during the reactionary period. The Negroes among these people continued to study books and hear religious instruction conveyed to maturing minds.
Yet little as seemed this enlightenment by means of verbal instruction, some slaveholders became sufficiently inhuman to object to it on the grounds that the teaching of religion would lead to the teaching of letters. In fact, by 1835 certain parts of the South reached the third stage in the development of the education of the Negroes. At first they were taught the common branches to enable them to understand the principles of Christianity; next the colored people as an enlightened class became such a menace to southern institutions that it was deemed unwise to allow them any instruction beyond that of memory training; and finally, when it was discovered that many ambitious blacks were still learning to stir up their fellows, it was decreed that they should not receive any instruction at all. Reduced thus to the plane of beasts, where they remained for generations, Negroes developed bad traits which since their emancipation have been removed only with great difficulty.
Dark as the future of the Negro students seemed, all hope was not yet gone. Certain white men in every southern community made it possible for many of them to learn in spite of opposition. Slaveholders were not long in discovering that a thorough execution of the law was impossible when Negroes were following practically all the higher pursuits of labor in the South. Masters who had children known to be teaching slaves protected their benevolent sons and daughters from the rigors of the law. Preachers, on finding out that the effort at verbal education could not convey Christian truths to an undeveloped mind, overcame the opposition in their localities and taught the colored people as before. Negroes themselves, regarding learning as forbidden fruit, stole away to secret places at night to study under the direction of friends. Some learned by intuition without having had the guidance of an instructor. The fact is that these drastic laws were not passed to restrain "discreet" southerners from doing whatever they desired for the betterment of their Negroes. The aim was to cut off their communication with northern teachers and abolitionists, whose activity had caused the South to believe that if such precaution were not taken these agents would teach their slaves principles subversive of southern institutions. Thereafter the documents which mention the teaching of Negroes to read and write seldom even state that the southern white teacher was so much as censured for his benevolence. In the rare cases of arrest of such instructors they were usually acquitted after receiving a reprimand.
With this winking at the teaching of Negroes in defiance of the law a better day for their education brightened certain parts of the South about the middle of the nineteenth century. Believing that an enlightened laboring class might stop the decline of that section, some slaveholders changed their attitude toward the elevation of the colored people. Certain others came to think that the policy of keeping Negroes in ignorance to prevent servile insurrections was unwise. It was observed that the most loyal and subordinate slaves were those who could read the Bible and learn the truth for themselves. Private teachers of colored persons, therefore, were often left undisturbed, little effort was made to break up the Negroes' secret schools in different parts, and many influential white men took it upon themselves to instruct the blacks who were anxious to learn.
Other Negroes who had no such opportunities were then finding a way of escape through the philanthropy of those abolitionists who colonized some freedmen and fugitives in the Northwest Territory and promoted the migration of others to the East. These Negroes were often fortunate. Many of them settled where they could take up land and had access to schools and churches conducted by the best white people of the country. This migration, however, made matters worse for the Negroes who were left in the South. As only the most enlightened blacks left the slave States, the bondmen and the indigent free persons of color were thereby deprived of helpful contact. The preponderance of intelligent Negroes, therefore, was by 1840 on the side of the North. Thereafter the actual education of the colored people was largely confined to eastern cities and northern communities of transplanted freedmen. The pioneers of these groups organized churches and established and maintained a number of successful elementary schools.
In addition to providing for rudimentary instruction, the free Negroes of the North helped their friends to make possible what we now call higher education. During the second quarter of the nineteenth century the advanced training of the colored people was almost prohibited by the refusals of academies and colleges to admit persons of African blood. In consequence of these conditions, the long-put-forth efforts to found Negro colleges began to be crowned with success before the Civil War. Institutions of the North admitted Negroes later for various reasons. Some colleges endeavored to prepare them for service in Liberia, while others, proclaiming their conversion to the doctrine of democratic education, opened their doors to all.
The advocates of higher education, however, met with no little opposition. The concentration in northern communities of the crude fugitives driven from the South necessitated a readjustment of things. The training of Negroes in any manner whatever was then very unpopular in many parts of the North. When prejudice, however, lost some of its sting, the friends of the colored people did more than ever for their education. But in view of the changed conditions most of these philanthropists concluded that the Negroes were very much in need of practical education. Educators first attempted to provide such training by offering classical and vocational courses in what they called the "manual labor schools." When these failed to meet the emergency they advocated actual vocational training. To make this new system extensive the Negroes freely cooeperated with their benefactors, sharing no small part of the real burden. They were at the same time paying taxes to support public schools which they could not attend.
This very condition was what enabled the abolitionists to see that they had erred in advocating the establishment of separate schools for Negroes. At first the segregation of pupils of African blood was, as stated above, intended as a special provision to bring the colored youth into contact with sympathetic teachers, who knew the needs of their students. When the public schools, however, developed at the expense of the state into a desirable system better equipped than private institutions, the antislavery organizations in many Northern States began to demand that the Negroes be admitted to the public schools. After extensive discussion certain States of New England finally decided the question in the affirmative, experiencing no great inconvenience from the change. In most other States of the North, however, separate schools for Negroes did not cease to exist until after the Civil War. It was the liberated Negroes themselves who, during the Reconstruction, gave the Southern States their first effective system of free public schools.
RELIGION WITH LETTERS
The first real educators to take up the work of enlightening American Negroes were clergymen interested in the propagation of the gospel among the heathen of the new world. Addressing themselves to this task, the missionaries easily discovered that their first duty was to educate these crude elements to enable them not only to read the truth for themselves, but to appreciate the supremacy of the Christian religion. After some opposition slaves were given the opportunity to take over the Christian civilization largely because of the adverse criticism which the apostles to the lowly heaped upon the planters who neglected the improvement of their Negroes. Made then a device for bringing the blacks into the Church, their education was at first too much dominated by the teaching of religion.
[Footnote 1: Bourne, Spain in America, p. 241; and The Penn. Mag. of History, xii., 265.]
Many early advocates of slavery favored the enlightenment of the Africans. That it was an advantage to the Negroes to be brought within the light of the gospel was a common argument in favor of the slave trade. When the German Protestants from Salsburg had scruples about enslaving men, they were assured by a message from home stating that if they took slaves in faith and with the intention of conducting them to Christ, the action would not be a sin, but might prove a benediction. This was about the attitude of Spain. The missionary movement seemed so important to the king of that country that he at first allowed only Christian slaves to be brought to America, hoping that such persons might serve as apostles to the Indians. The Spaniards adopted a different policy, however, when they ceased their wild search for an "El Dorado" and became permanently attached to the community. They soon made settlements and opened mines which they thought required the introduction of slavery. Thus becoming commercialized, these colonists experienced a greed which, disregarding the consequences of the future, urged the importation of all classes of slaves to meet the demand for cheap labor. This request was granted by the King of Spain, but the masters of such bondmen were expressly ordered to have them indoctrinated in the principles of Christianity. It was the failure of certain Spaniards to live up to these regulations that caused the liberal-minded Jesuit, Alphonso Sandoval, to register the first protest against slavery in America. In later years the change in the attitude of the Spaniards toward this problem was noted. In Mexico the ayuntamientos were under the most rigid responsibility to see that free children born of slaves received the best education that could be given them. They had to place them "for that purpose at the public schools and other places of instruction wherein they" might "become useful to society."
[Footnote 1: Proslavery Argument; and Lecky, History of England, vol. ii., p. 17.]
[Footnote 2: Faust, German Element in United States, vol. i., pp. 242-43.]
[Footnote 3: Bancroft, History of United States, vol. i., p. 124.]
[Footnote 4: Herrera, Historia General, dec. iv., libro ii.; dec. v., libro ii.; dec. vii., libro iv.]
[Footnote 5: Bourne, Spain in America, p. 241.]
[Footnote 6: Special Report U.S. Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 389.]
In the French settlements of America the instruction of the Negroes did not early become a difficult problem. There were not many Negroes among the French. Their methods of colonization did not require many slaves. Nevertheless, whenever the French missionary came into contact with Negroes he considered it his duty to enlighten the unfortunates and lead them to God. As early as 1634 Paul Le Jeune, a Jesuit missionary in Canada, rejoiced that he had again become a real preceptor in that he was teaching a little Negro the alphabet. Le Jeune hoped to baptize his pupil as soon as he learned sufficient to understand the Christian doctrine. Moreover, evidence of a general interest in the improvement of Negroes appeared in the Code Noir which made it incumbent upon masters to enlighten their slaves that they might grasp the principles of the Christian religion. To carry out this mandate slaves were sometimes called together with white settlers. The meeting was usually opened with prayer and the reading of some pious book, after which the French children were turned over to one catechist, and the slaves and Indians to another. If a large number of slaves were found in the community their special instruction was provided for in meetings of their own.
[Footnote 1: Jesuit Relations, vol. v., p. 63.]
[Footnote 2: Code Noir, p. 107.]
[Footnote 3: Jesuit Relations, vol. v., p. 62.]
After 1716, when Jesuits were taking over slaves in larger numbers, and especially after 1726, when Law's Company was importing many to meet the demand for laborers in Louisiana, we read of more instances of the instruction of Negroes by French Catholics. Writing about this task in 1730, Le Petit spoke of being "settled to the instruction of the boarders, the girls who live without, and the Negro women." In 1738 he said, "I instruct in Christian morals the slaves of our residence, who are Negroes, and as many others as I can get from their masters." Years later Francois Philibert Watrum, seeing that some Jesuits had on their estates one hundred and thirty slaves, inquired why the instruction of the Indian and Negro serfs of the French did not give these missionaries sufficient to do. Hoping to enable the slaves to elevate themselves, certain inhabitants of the French colonies requested of their king a decree protecting their title to property in such bondmen as they might send to France to be confirmed in their instruction and in the exercise of their religion, and to have them learn some art or trade from which the colonies might receive some benefit by their return from the mother country.
[Footnote 1: Ibid., vol. lxvii., pp. 259 and 343.]
[Footnote 2: Ibid., vol. lxviii., p. 201.]
[Footnote 3: Ibid., vol. lxix., p. 31.]
[Footnote 4: Ibid., vol. lxx., p. 245.]
The education of Negroes was facilitated among the French and Spanish by their liberal attitude toward their slaves. Many of them were respected for their worth and given some of the privileges of freemen. Estevanecito, an enlightened slave sent by Niza, the Spanish adventurer, to explore Arizona, was a favored servant of this class. The Latin custom of miscegenation proved to be a still more important factor in the education of Negroes in the colonies. As the French and Spanish came to America for the purpose of exploitation, leaving their wives behind, many of them, by cohabiting with and marrying colored women, gave rise to an element of mixed breeds. This was especially true of the Spanish settlements. They had more persons of this class than any other colonies in America. The Latins, in contradistinction to the English, generally liberated their mulatto offspring and sometimes recognized them as their equals. Such Negroes constituted a class of persons who, although they could not aspire to the best in the colony, had a decided advantage over other inhabitants of color. They often lived in luxury, and, of course, had a few social privileges. The Code Noir granted freedmen the same rights, privileges, and immunities as those enjoyed by persons born free, with the view that the accomplishment of acquired liberty should have on the former the same effect that the happiness of natural liberty caused in other subjects. As these mixed breeds were later lost, so to speak, among the Latins, it is almost impossible to determine what their circumstances were, and what advantages of education they had.
[Footnote 1: Bancroft, Arizona and New Mexico, pp. 27-32.]
[Footnote 2: The Code Noir obliged every planter to have his Negroes instructed and baptized. It allowed the slave for instruction, worship, and rest not only every Sunday, but every festival usually observed by the Roman Catholic Church. It did not permit any market to be held on Sundays or holidays. It prohibited, under severe penalties, all masters and managers from corrupting their female slaves. It did not allow the Negro husband, wife, or infant children to be sold separately. It forbade them the use of torture, or immoderate and inhuman punishments. It obliged the owners to maintain their old and decrepit slaves. If the Negroes were not fed and clothed as the law prescribed, or if they were in any way cruelly treated, they might apply to the Procureur, who was obliged by his office to protect them. See Code Noir, pp. 99-100.]
The Spanish and French were doing so much more than the English to enlighten their slaves that certain teachers and missionaries in the British colonies endeavored more than ever to arouse their countrymen to discharge their duty to those they held in bondage. These reformers hoped to do this by holding up to the members of the Anglican Church the praiseworthy example of the Catholics whom the British had for years denounced as enemies of Christ. The criticism had its effect. But to prosecute this work extensively the English had to overcome the difficulty found in the observance of the unwritten law that no Christian could be held a slave. Now, if the teaching of slaves enabled them to be converted and their Christianization led to manumission, the colonists had either to let the institution gradually pass away or close all avenues of information to the minds of their Negroes. The necessity of choosing either of these alternatives was obviated by the enactment of provincial statutes and formal declarations by the Bishop of London to the effect that conversion did not work manumission. After the solution of this problem English missionaries urged more vigorously upon the colonies the duty of instructing the slaves. Among the active churchmen working for this cause were Rev. Morgan Goodwyn and Bishops Fleetwood, Lowth, and Sanderson.
[Footnote 1: Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 352.]
[Footnote 2: On observing that laws had been passed in Virginia to prevent slaves from attending the meetings of Quakers for purposes of being instructed, Morgan Goodwyn registered a most earnest protest. He felt that prompt attention should be given to the instruction of the slaves to prevent the Church from falling into discredit, and to obviate the causes for blasphemy on the part of the enemies of the Church who would not fail to point out that ministers sent to the remotest parts had failed to convert the heathen. Therefore, he preached in Westminster Abbey in 1685 a sermon "to stir up and provoke" his "Majesty's subjects abroad, and even at home, to use endeavors for the propagation of Christianity among their domestic slaves and vassals." He referred to the spreading of mammonism and irreligion by which efforts to instruct and Christianize the heathen were paralyzed. He deplored the fact that the slaves who were the subjects of such instruction became the victims of still greater cruelty, while the missionaries who endeavored to enlighten them were neglected and even persecuted by the masters. They considered the instruction of the Negroes an impracticable and needless work of popish superstition, and a policy subversive of the interests of slaveholders. Bishop Sanderson found it necessary to oppose this policy of Virginia which had met the denunciation of Goodwyn. In strongly emphasizing this duty of masters, Bishop Fleetwood moved the hearts of many planters of North Carolina to allow missionaries access to their slaves. Many of them were thereafter instructed and baptized. See Goodwyn, The Negroes and Indians' Advocate; Hart, History Told by Contemporaries, vol. i., No. 86; Special Rep. U.S. Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 363; An Account of the Endeavors of the Soc., etc., p. 14.]
Complaints from men of this type led to systematic efforts to enlighten the blacks. The first successful scheme for this purpose came from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. It was organized by the members of the Established Church in London in 1701 to do missionary work among Indians and Negroes. To convert the heathen they sent out not only ministers but schoolmasters. They were required to instruct the children, to teach them to read the Scriptures and other poems and useful books, to ground them thoroughly in the Church catechism, and to repeat "morning and evening prayers and graces composed for their use at home."
[Footnote 1: Pascoe, Classified Digest of the Records of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, p. 24.]
[Footnote 2: Dalcho, An Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, p. 39; Special Rep. U.S. Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 362.]
The first active schoolmaster of this class was Rev. Samuel Thomas of Goose Creek Parish in South Carolina. He took up this work there in 1695, and in 1705 could count among his communicants twenty Negroes, who with several others "well understanding the English tongue" could read and write. Rev. Mr. Thomas said: "I have here presumed to give an account of one thousand slaves so far as they know of it and are desirous of Christian knowledge and seem willing to prepare themselves for it, in learning to read, for which they redeem the time from their labor. Many of them can read the Bible distinctly, and great numbers of them were learning when I left the province." But not only had this worker enlightened many Negroes in his parish, but had enlisted in the work several ladies, among whom was Mrs. Haig Edwards. The Rev. Mr. Taylor, already interested in the cause, hoped that other masters and mistresses would follow the example of Mrs. Edwards.
[Footnote 1: Meriwether, Education in South Carolina, p. 123].
[Footnote 2: Special Rep. U.S. Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 362.]
[Footnote 3: An Account of the Endeavors Used by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, pp. 13-14.]
Through the efforts of the same society another school was opened in New York City in 1704 under Elias Neau. This benefactor is commonly known as the first to begin such an institution for the education of Negroes; but the school in Goose Creek Parish, South Carolina, was in operation at least nine years earlier. At first Neau called the Negroes together after their daily toil was over and taught them at his house. By 1708 he was instructing thus as many as two hundred. Neau's school owes its importance to the fact that not long after its beginning certain Negroes who organized themselves to kill off their masters were accredited as students of this institution. For this reason it was immediately closed. When upon investigating the causes of the insurrection, however, it was discovered that only one person connected with the institution had taken part in the struggle, the officials of the colony permitted Neau to continue his work and extended him their protection. After having been of invaluable service to the Negroes of New York this school was closed in 1722 by the death of its founder. The work of Neau, however, was taken up by Mr. Huddlestone. Rev. Mr. Wetmore entered the field in 1726. Later there appeared Rev. Mr. Colgan and Noxon, both of whom did much to promote the cause. In 1732 came Rev. Mr. Charlton who toiled in this field until 1747 when he was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Auchmutty. He had the cooeperation of Mr. Hildreth, the assistant of his predecessor. Much help was obtained from Rev. Mr. Barclay who, at the death of Mr. Vesey in 1764, became the rector of the parish supporting the school.
[Footnote 1: An Account of the Endeavors Used by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, pp. 6-12.]
[Footnote 2: Ibid., p. 9.]
[Footnote 3: Special Report U.S. Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 362.]
The results obtained in the English colonies during the early period show that the agitation for the enlightenment of the Negroes spread not only wherever these unfortunates were found, but claimed the attention of the benevolent far away. Bishop Wilson of Sodor and Man, active in the cause during the first half of the eighteenth century, availed himself of the opportunity to aid those missionaries who were laboring in the colonies for the instruction of the Indians and Negroes. In 1740 he published a pamphlet written in 1699 on the Principles and Duties of Christianity in their Direct Bearing on the Uplift of the Heathen. To teach by example he further aided this movement by giving fifty pounds for the education of colored children in Talbot County, Maryland.
[Footnote 1: Ibid., 1871, p. 364.]
After some opposition this work began to progress somewhat in Virginia. The first school established in that colony was for Indians and Negroes. In the course of time the custom of teaching the latter had legal sanction there. On binding out a "bastard or pauper child black or white," churchwardens specifically required that he should be taught "to read, write, and calculate as well as to follow some profitable form of labor." Other Negroes also had an opportunity to learn. Reports of an increase in the number of colored communicants came from Accomac County where four or five hundred families were instructing their slaves at home, and had their children catechized on Sunday. Unusual interest in the cause at Lambeth, in the same colony, is attested by an interesting document, setting forth in 1724 a proposition for "Encouraging the Christian Education of Indian, Negro, and Mulatto Children." The author declares it to be the duty of masters and mistresses of America to endeavor to educate and instruct their heathen slaves in the Christian faith, and mentioned the fact that this work had been "earnestly recommended by his Majesty's instructions." To encourage the movement it was proposed that "every Indian, Negro and Mulatto child that should be baptized and afterward brought into the Church and publicly catechized by the minister, and should before the fourteenth year of his or her age give a distinct account of the creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments," should receive from the minister a certificate which would entitle such children to exemption from paying all levies until the age of eighteen. The neighboring colony of North Carolina also was moved by these efforts despite some difficulties which the missionaries there encountered.
[Footnote 1: Meade, Old Families and Churches in Virginia, p. 264; Plumer, Thoughts on the Religious Instruction of Negroes, pp. 11-12.]
[Footnote 2: Monroe, Cyclopaedia of Education, vol. iv., p. 406.]
[Footnote 3: Russell, The Free Negro in Virginia, in J.H.U. Studies, Series xxxi., No. 3, p. 107.]
[Footnote 4: Meade, Old Families and Churches in Virginia, pp. 264-65.]
[Footnote 5: Ashe, History of North Carolina, pp. 389-90.]
This favorable attitude toward the people of color, and the successful work among them, caused the opponents of this policy to speak out boldly against their enlightenment. Some asserted that the Negroes were such stubborn creatures that there could be no such close dealing with them, and that even when converted they became saucier than pious. Others maintained that these bondmen were so ignorant and indocile, so far gone in their wickedness, so confirmed in their habit of evil ways, that it was vain to undertake to teach them such knowledge. Less cruel slaveholders had thought of getting out of the difficulty by the excuse that the instruction of Negroes required more time and labor than masters could well spare from their business. Then there were others who frankly confessed that, being an ignorant and unlearned people themselves, they could not teach others.
[Footnote 1: For a summary of this argument see Meade, Four Sermons of Reverend Bacon, pp. 81-97; also, A Letter to an American Planter from his Friend in London, p. 5.]
Seeing that many leading planters had been influenced by those opposed to the enlightenment of Negroes, Bishop Gibson of London issued an appeal in behalf of the bondmen, addressing the clergy and laymen in two letters published in London in 1727. In one he exhorted masters and mistresses of families to encourage and promote the instruction of their Negroes in the Christian faith. In the other epistle he directed the missionaries of the colonies to give to this work whatever assistance they could. Writing to the slaveholders, he took the position that considering the greatness of the profit from the labor of the slaves it might be hoped that all masters, those especially who were possessed of considerable numbers, should be at some expense in providing for the instruction of those poor creatures. He thought that others who did not own so many should share in the expense of maintaining for them a common teacher.
[Footnote 1: An Account of the Endeavors Used by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, pp. 16, 21, and 32; and Dalcho, An Historical Account, etc., pp. 104 et seq.]
Equally censorious of these neglectful masters was Reverend Thomas Bacon, the rector of the Parish Church in Talbot County, Maryland. In 1749 he set forth his protest in four sermons on "the great and indispensable duty of all Christian masters to bring up their slaves in the knowledge and fear of God." Contending that slaves should enjoy rights like those of servants in the household of the patriarchs, Bacon insisted that next to one's children and brethren by blood, one's servants, and especially one's slaves, stood in the nearest relation to him, and that in return for their drudgery the master owed it to his bondmen to have them enlightened. He believed that the reading and explaining of the Holy Scriptures should be made a stated duty. In the course of time the place of catechist in each family might be supplied out of the intelligent slaves by choosing such among them as were best taught to instruct the rest. He was of the opinion, too, that were some of the slaves taught to read, were they sent to school for that purpose when young, were they given the New Testament and other good books to be read at night to their fellow-servants, such a course would vastly increase their knowledge of God and direct their minds to a serious thought of futurity.
[Footnote 1: Meade, Sermons of Thomas Bacon, pp. 31 et seq.]
[Footnote 2: Meade, Sermons of Thomas Bacon, pp. 116 et seq.]
[Footnote 3: Ibid., p. 118.]
With almost equal zeal did Bishops Williams and Butler plead the same cause. They deplored the fact that because of their dark skins Negro slaves were treated as a species different from the rest of mankind. Denouncing the more cruel treatment of slaves as cattle, unfit for mental and moral improvement, these churchmen asserted that the highest property possible to be acquired in servants could not cancel the obligation to take care of the religious instruction of those who "despicable as they are in the eyes of man are nevertheless the creatures of God."
[Footnote 1: Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 363.]
[Footnote 2: Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 363.]
On account of these appeals made during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a larger number of slaves of the English colonies were thereafter treated as human beings capable of mental, moral, and spiritual development. Some masters began to provide for the improvement of these unfortunates, not because they loved them, but because instruction would make them more useful to the community. A much more effective policy of Negro education was brought forward in 1741 by Bishop Secker. He suggested the employment of young Negroes prudently chosen to teach their countrymen. To carry out such a plan he had already sent a missionary to Africa. Besides instructing Negroes at his post of duty, this apostle sent three African natives to England where they were educated for the work. It was doubtless the sentiment of these leaders that caused Dr. Brearcroft to allude to this project in a discourse before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts in 1741.
[Footnote 1: Secker, Works, vol. v., p. 88.]
[Footnote 2: Ibid., vol. vi., p. 467.]
[Footnote 3: An Account of the Endeavors Used by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, p.6.]
This organization hit upon the plan of purchasing two Negroes named Harry and Andrew, and of qualifying them by thorough instruction in the principles of Christianity and the fundamentals of education, to serve as schoolmasters to their people. Under the direction of Rev. Mr. Garden, the missionary who had directed the training of these young men, a building costing about three hundred and eight pounds was erected in Charleston, South Carolina. In the school which opened in this building in 1744 Harry and Andrew served as teachers. In the beginning the school had about sixty young students, and had a very good daily attendance for a number of years. The directors of the institution planned to send out annually between thirty and forty youths "well instructed in religion and capable of reading their Bibles to carry home and diffuse the same knowledge to their fellow slaves." It is highly probable that after 1740 this school was attended only by free persons of color. Because the progress of Negro education had been rather rapid, South Carolina enacted that year a law prohibiting any person from teaching or causing a slave to be taught, or from employing or using a slave as a scribe in any manner of writing.
[Footnote 1: Meriwether, Education in South Carolina, p. 123; McCrady, South Carolina, etc., p. 246; Dalcho, An Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, pp. 156, 157, 164.]
[Footnote 2: Ibid., pp. 157 and 164.]
In 1764 the Charleston school was closed for reasons which it is difficult to determine. From one source we learn that one of the teachers died, and the other having turned out profligate, no instructors could be found to continue the work. It does not seem that the sentiment against the education of free Negroes had by that time become sufficiently strong to cause the school to be discontinued. It is evident, however, that with the assistance of influential persons of different communities the instruction of slaves continued in that colony. Writing about the middle of the eighteenth century, Eliza Lucas, a lady of South Carolina, who afterward married Justice Pinckney, mentions a parcel of little Negroes whom she had undertaken to teach to read.
[Footnote 1: An Account of the Endeavors Used by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, p. 15.]
[Footnote 2: Bourne, Spain in America, p. 241.]
The work of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was also effective in communities of the North in which the established Church of England had some standing. In 1751 Reverend Hugh Neill, once a Presbyterian minister of New Jersey, became a missionary of this organization to the Negroes of Pennsylvania. He worked among them fifteen years. Dr. Smith, Provost of the College of Philadelphia, devoted a part of his time to the work, and at the death of Neill in 1766 enlisted as a regular missionary of the Society. It seems, however, that prior to the eighteenth century not much had been done to enlighten the slaves of that colony, although free persons of color had been instructed. Rev. Mr. Wayman, another missionary to Pennsylvania about the middle of the eighteenth century, asserted that "neither" was "there anywhere care taken for the instruction of Negro slaves," the duty to whom he had "pressed upon masters with little effect."
[Footnote 1: Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 362.]
[Footnote 2: Wickersham, History of Education in Pennsylvania, p. 248.]
To meet this need the Society set the example of maintaining catechetical lectures for Negroes in St. Peter's and Christ Church of Philadelphia, during the incumbency of Dr. Jennings from 1742 to 1762. William Sturgeon, a student of Yale, selected to do this work, was sent to London for ordination and placed in charge in 1747. In this position Rev. Mr. Sturgeon remained nineteen years, rendering such satisfactory services in the teaching of Negroes that he deserves to be recorded as one of the first benefactors of the Negro race.
[Footnote 1: Ibid., p. 241.]
Antedating this movement in Pennsylvania were the efforts of Reverend Dr. Thomas Bray. In 1696 he was sent to Maryland by the Bishop of London on an ecclesiastical mission to do what he could toward the conversion of adult Negroes and the education of their children. Bray's most influential supporter was M. D'Alone, the private secretary of King William. D'Alone gave for the maintenance of the cause a fund, the proceeds of which were first used for the employment of colored catechists, and later for the support of the Thomas Bray Mission after the catechists had failed to give satisfaction. At the death of this missionary the task was taken up by certain followers of the good man, known as the "Associates of Doctor Bray." They extended their work beyond the confines of Maryland. In 1760 two schools for the education of Negroes were maintained in Philadelphia by these benefactors. It was the aid obtained from the Dr. Bray fund that enabled the abolitionists to establish in that city a permanent school which continued for almost a hundred years. About the close of the French and Indian War, Rev. Mr. Stewart, a missionary in North Carolina, found there a school for the education of Indians and free Negroes, conducted by Dr. Bray's Associates. The example of these men appealing to him as a wise policy, he directed to it the attention of the clergy at home.
[Footnote 1: Ibid., p. 252; Smyth, Works of Franklin, vol. iv., p. 23; and vol. v., p. 431.]
[Footnote 2: Smyth, Works of Franklin, vol. v., p. 431.]
[Footnote 3: Wickersham, History of Education in Pennsylvania, p. 249.]
[Footnote 4: Bassett, Slavery and Servitude in North Carolina, Johns Hopkins University Studies, vol. xv., p. 226.]
Not many slaves were found among the Puritans, but the number sufficed to bring the question of their instruction before these colonists almost as prominently as we have observed it was brought in the case of the members of the Established Church of England. Despite the fact that the Puritans developed from the Calvinists, believers in the doctrine of election which swept away all class distinction, this sect did not, like the Quakers, attack slavery as an institution. Yet if the Quakers were the first of the Protestants to protest against the buying and selling of souls, New England divines were among the first to devote attention to the mental, moral, and spiritual development of Negroes. In 1675 John Eliot objected to the Indian slave trade, not because of the social degradation, but for the reason that he desired that his countrymen "should follow Christ his Designe in this matter to promote the free passage of Religion" among them. He further said: "For to sell Souls for Money seemeth to me to be dangerous Merchandise, to sell away from all Means of Grace whom Christ hath provided Means of Grace for you is the Way for us to be active in destroying their Souls when they are highly obliged to seek their Conversion and Salvation." Eliot bore it grievously that the souls of the slaves were "exposed by their Masters to a destroying Ignorance meerly for the Fear of thereby losing the Benefit of their Vassalage."
[Footnote 1: Pennsylvania Magazine of History, vol. xiii., p. 265.]
[Footnote 2: Locke, Anti-slavery Before 1808, p. 15; Mather, Life of John Eliot, p. 14; New Plymouth Colony Records, vol. x., p. 452.]
Further interest in the work was manifested by Cotton Mather. He showed his liberality in his professions published in 1693 in a set of Rules for the Society of Negroes, intended to present the claims of the despised race to the benefits of religious instruction. Mather believed that servants were in a sense like one's children, and that their masters should train and furnish them with Bibles and other religious books for which they should be given time to read. He maintained that servants should be admitted to the religious exercises of the family and was willing to employ such of them as were competent to teach his children lessons of piety. Coming directly to the issue of the day, Mather deplored the fact that the several plantations which lived upon the labor of their Negroes were guilty of the "prodigious Wickedness of deriding, neglecting, and opposing all due Means of bringing the poor Negroes unto God." He hoped that the masters, of whom God would one day require the souls of slaves committed to their care, would see to it that like Abraham they have catechised servants. They were not to imagine that the "Almighty God made so many thousands reasonable Creatures for nothing but only to serve the Lusts of Epicures, or the Gains of Mammonists."
[Footnote 1: Locke, Anti-slavery, etc., p. 15.]
[Footnote 2: Meade, Sermons of Thomas Bacon, p. 137 et seq.]
The sentiment of the clergy of this epoch was more directly expressed by Richard Baxter, the noted Nonconformist, in his "Directions to Masters in Foreign Plantations," incorporated as rules into the Christian Directory. Baxter believed in natural liberty and the equality of man, and justified slavery only on the ground of "necessitated consent" or captivity in lawful war. For these reasons he felt that they that buy slaves and "use them as Beasts for their meer Commodity, and betray, or destroy or neglect their Souls are fitter to be called incarnate Devils than Christians, though they be no Christians whom they so abuse." His aim here, however, is not to abolish the institution of slavery but to enlighten the Africans and bring them into the Church. Exactly what effect Baxter had on this movement cannot be accurately figured out. The fact, however, that his creed was extensively adhered to by the Protestant colonists among whom his works were widely read, leads us to think that he influenced some masters to change their attitude toward their slaves.
[Footnote 1: Baxter, Practical Works, vol. i., p. 438.]
[Footnote 2: Baxter, Practical Works, vol. i., p. 438-40.]
[Footnote 3: Ibid., p. 440.]
The next Puritan of prominence who enlisted among the helpers of the African slaves was Chief Justice Sewall, of Massachusetts. In 1701 he stirred his section by publishing his Selling of Joseph, a distinctly anti-slavery pamphlet, based on the natural and inalienable right of every man to be free. The appearance of this publication marked an epoch in the history of the Negroes. It was the first direct attack on slavery in New England. The Puritan clergy had formerly winked at the continuation of the institution, provided the masters were willing to give the slaves religious instruction. In the Selling of Joseph Sewall had little to say about their mental and moral improvement, but in the Athenian Oracle, which expressed his sentiments so well that he had it republished in 1705, he met more directly the problem of elevating the Negro race. Taking up this question, Sewall said: "There's yet less doubt that those who are of Age to answer for themselves would soon learn the Principles of our Faith, and might be taught the Obligation of the Vow they made in Baptism, and there's little Doubt but Abraham instructed his Heathen Servants who were of Age to learn, the Nature of Circumcision before he circumcised them; nor can we conclude much less from God's own noble Testimony of him, 'I know him that he will command his Children and his Household, and they shall keep the Way of the Lord.'" Sewall believed that the emancipation of the slaves should be promoted to encourage Negroes to become Christians. He could not understand how any Christian could hinder or discourage them from learning the principles of the Christian religion and embracing the faith.
[Footnote 1: Moore, Notes on Slavery in Massachusetts, p. 91.]
[Footnote 2: Moore, Notes on Slavery in Massachusetts, p. 92; Locke, Anti-slavery, etc., p. 31.]
[Footnote 3: Moore, Notes on Slavery, etc., p. 91; The Athenian Oracle, vol. ii., pp. 460 et seq.]
This interest shown in the Negro race was in no sense general among the Puritans of that day. Many of their sect could not favor such proselyting, which, according to their system of government, would have meant the extension to the slaves of social and political privileges. It was not until the French provided that masters should take their slaves to church and have them indoctrinated in the Catholic faith, that the proposition was seriously considered by many of the Puritans. They, like the Anglicans, felt sufficient compunction of conscience to take steps to Christianize the slaves, lest the Catholics, whom they had derided as undesirable churchmen, should put the Protestants to shame. The publication of the Code Noir probably influenced the instructions sent out from England to his Majesty's governors requiring them "with the assistance of our council to find out the best means to facilitate and encourage the conversion of Negroes and Indians to the Christian Religion." Everly subsequently mentions in his diary the passing of a resolution by the Council Board at Windsor or Whitehall, recommending that the blacks in plantations be baptized, and meting out severe censure to those who opposed this policy.
[Footnote 1: Moore, Notes on Slavery, etc., p. 79.]
[Footnote 2: This good example of the Catholics was in later years often referred to by Bishop Porteus. Works of Bishop Porteus, vol. vi, pp. 168, 173, 177, 178, 401; Moore, Notes on Slavery, etc., p. 96.]
[Footnote 3: Ibid., p. 96.]
More effective than the efforts of other sects in the enlightenment of the Negroes was the work of the Quakers, despite the fact that they were not free to extend their operations throughout the colonies. Just as the colored people are indebted to the Quakers for registering in 1688 the first protest against slavery in Protestant America, so are they indebted to this denomination for the earliest permanent and well-developed schools devoted to the education of their race. As the Quakers believed in the freedom of the will, human brotherhood, and equality before God, they did not, like the Puritans, find difficulties in solving the problem of enlightening the Negroes. While certain Puritans were afraid that conversion might lead to the destruction of caste and the incorporation of undesirable persons into the "Body Politick," the Quakers proceeded on the principle that all men are brethren and, being equal before God, should be considered equal before the law. On account of unduly emphasizing the relation of man to God the Puritans "atrophied their social humanitarian instinct" and developed into a race of self-conscious saints. Believing in human nature and laying stress upon the relation between man and man the Quakers became the friends of all humanity.
Far from the idea of getting rid of an undesirable element by merely destroying the institution which supplied it, the Quakers endeavored to teach the Negro to be a man capable of discharging the duties of citizenship. As early as 1672 their attention was directed to this important matter by George Fox. In 1679 he spoke out more boldly, entreating his sect to instruct and teach their Indians and Negroes "how that Christ, by the Grace of God, tasted death for every man." Other Quakers of prominence did not fail to drive home this thought. In 1693 George Keith, a leading Quaker of his day, came forward as a promoter of the religious training of the slaves as a preparation for emancipation. William Penn advocated the emancipation of slaves, that they might have every opportunity for improvement. In 1696 the Quakers, while protesting against the slave trade, denounced also the policy of neglecting their moral and spiritual welfare. The growing interest of this sect in the Negroes was shown later by the development in 1713 of a definite scheme for freeing and returning them to Africa after having been educated and trained to serve as missionaries on that continent.
[Footnote 1: Quaker Pamphlet, p. 8; Moore, Anti-slavery, etc., p. 79.]
[Footnote 2: Ibid., p. 79.]
[Footnote 3: Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed., p. 376.]
[Footnote 4: Rhodes, History of the United States, vol. i., p. 6; Bancroft, History of the United States, vol. ii., p. 401.]
[Footnote 5: Locke, Anti-slavery, p. 32.]
[Footnote 6: Ibid., p. 30.]
The inevitable result of this liberal attitude toward the Negroes was that the Quakers of those colonies where other settlers were so neglectful of the enlightenment of the colored race, soon found themselves at war with the leaders of the time. In slaveholding communities the Quakers were persecuted, not necessarily because they adhered to a peculiar faith, not primarily because they had manners and customs unacceptable to the colonists, but because in answering the call of duty to help all men they incurred the ill will of the masters who denounced them as undesirable persons, bringing into America spurious doctrines subversive of the institutions of the aristocratic settlements.
Their experience in the colony of Virginia is a good example of how this worked out. Seeing the unchristian attitude of the preachers in most parts of that colony, the Quakers inquired of them, "Who made you ministers of the Gospel to white people only, and not to the tawny and blacks also?" To show the nakedness of the neglectful clergy there some of this faith manifested such zeal in teaching and preaching to the Negroes that their enemies demanded legislation to prevent them from gaining ascendancy over the minds of the slaves. Accordingly, to make the colored people of that colony inaccessible to these workers it was deemed wise in 1672 to enact a law prohibiting members of that sect from taking Negroes to their meetings. In 1678 the colony enacted another measure excluding Quakers from the teaching profession by providing that no person should be allowed to keep a school in Virginia unless he had taken the oath of allegiance and supremacy. Of course, it was inconsistent with the spirit and creed of the Quakers to take this oath.
[Footnote 1: Quaker Pamphlet, p. 9.]
[Footnote 2: Hening, Statutes at Large, vol. i., 532; ii., 48, 165, 166, 180, 198, and 204. Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 391.]
The settlers of North Carolina followed the same procedure to check the influence of Quakers, who spoke there in behalf of the man of color as fearlessly as they had in Virginia. The apprehension of the dominating element was such that Governor Tryon had to be instructed to prohibit from teaching in that colony any person who had not a license from the Bishop of London. Although this order was seemingly intended to protect the faith and doctrine of the Anglican Church, rather than to prevent the education of Negroes, it operated to lessen their chances for enlightenment, since missionaries from the Established Church did not reach all parts of the colony. The Quakers of North Carolina, however, had local schools and actually taught slaves. Some of these could read and write as early as 1731. Thereafter, household servants were generally given the rudiments of an English education.
[Footnote 1: Ashe, History of North Carolina, vol. i., p. 389. The same instructions were given to Governor Francis Nicholson.]
[Footnote 2: Ibid., pp. 389, 390.]
It was in the settlements of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York that the Quakers encountered less opposition in carrying out their policy of cultivating the minds of colored people. Among these Friends the education of Negroes became the handmaiden of the emancipation movement. While John Hepburn, William Burling, Elihu Coleman, and Ralph Sandiford largely confined their attacks to the injustice of keeping slaves, Benjamin Lay was working for their improvement as a prerequisite of emancipation. Lay entreated the Friends to "bring up the Negroes to some Learning, Reading and Writing and" to "endeavor to the utmost of their Power in the sweet love of Truth to instruct and teach 'em the Principles of Truth and Religiousness, and learn some Honest Trade or Imployment and then set them free. And," says he, "all the time Friends are teaching of them let them know that they intend to let them go free in a very reasonable Time; and that our Religious Principles will not allow of such Severity, as to keep them in everlasting Bondage and Slavery."
[Footnote 1: Locke, Anti-slavery, etc., p. 31.]
[Footnote 2: Ibid., p. 32.]
The struggle of the Northern Quakers to enlighten the colored people had important local results. A strong moral force operated in the minds of most of this sect to impel them to follow the example of certain leaders who emancipated their slaves. Efforts in this direction were redoubled about the middle of the eighteenth century when Anthony Benezet, addressing himself with unwonted zeal to the uplift of these unfortunates, obtained the assistance of Clarkson and others, who solidified the antislavery sentiment of the Quakers and influenced them to give their time and means to the more effective education of the blacks. After this period the Quakers were also concerned with the improvement of the colored people's condition in other settlements.
[Footnote 1: Dr. DuBois gives a good account of these efforts in his Suppression of the African Slave Trade.]
[Footnote 2: Benezet was a French Protestant. Persecuted on account of their religion, his parents moved from France to England and later to Philadelphia. He became a teacher in that city in 1742. Thirteen years later he was teaching a school established for the education of the daughters of the most distinguished families in Philadelphia. He was then using his own spelling-book, primer, and grammar, some of the first text-books published in America. Known to persecution himself, Benezet always sympathized with the oppressed. Accordingly, he connected himself with the Quakers, who at that time had before them the double task of fighting for religious equality and the amelioration of the condition of the Negroes. Becoming interested in the welfare of the colored race, Benezet first attacked the slave trade, so exposing it in his speeches and writings that Clarkson entered the field as an earnest advocate of the suppression of the iniquitous traffic. See Benezet, Observations, p. 30, and the African Repository, vol. iv., p. 61.]
[Footnote 3: Quaker Pamphlet, p. 31.]
What the other sects did for the enlightenment of Negroes during this period, was not of much importance. As the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists did not proselyte extensively in this country prior to the middle of the eighteenth century, these denominations had little to do with Negro education before the liberalism and spirit of toleration, developed during the revolutionary era, made it possible for these sects to reach the people. The Methodists, however, confined at first largely to the South, where most of the slaves were found, had to take up this problem earlier. Something looking like an attempt to elevate the Negroes came from Wesley's contemporary, George Whitefield, who, strange to say, was regarded by the Negro race as its enemy for having favored the introduction of slavery. He was primarily interested in the conversion of the colored people. Without denying that "liberty is sweet to those who are born free," he advocated the importation of slaves into Georgia "to bring them within the reach of those means of grace which would make them partake of a liberty far more precious than the freedom of body." While on a visit to this country in 1740 he purchased a large tract of land at Nazareth, Pennsylvania, for the purpose of founding a school for the education of Negroes. Deciding later to go south, he sold the site to the Moravian brethren who had undertaken to establish a mission for Negroes at Bethlehem in 1738. Some writers have accepted the statement that Whitefield commenced the erection of a schoolhouse at Nazareth; others maintain that he failed to accomplish anything. Be that as it may, accessible facts are sufficient to show that, unwise as was his policy of importing slaves, his intention was to improve their condition. It was because of this sentiment in Georgia in 1747, when slavery was finally introduced there, that the people through their representatives in convention recommended that masters should educate their young slaves, and do whatever they could to make religious impressions upon the minds of the aged. This favorable attitude of early Methodists toward Negroes caused them to consider the new churchmen their friends and made it easy for this sect to proselyte the race.
[Footnote 1: Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 374.]
[Footnote 2: Ibid., p. 374.]
[Footnote 3: Turner, The Negro in Pennsylvania, p. 128.]
[Footnote 4: Equally interested in the Negroes were the Moravians who settled in the uplands of Pennsylvania and roamed over the hills of the Appalachian region as far south as Carolina. A painting of a group of their converts prior to 1747 shows among others two Negroes, Johannes of South Carolina and Jupiter of New York. See Hamilton, History of the Church known as the Moravian, p. 80; Plumer, Thoughts on the Religious Instruction of Negroes, p. 3; Reichel, The Moravians in North Carolina, p. 139.]
[Footnote 5: Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed., 1869, p. 374.]
EDUCATION AS A RIGHT OF MAN
In addition to the mere diffusion of knowledge as a means to teach religion there was a need of another factor to make the education of the Negroes thorough. This required force was supplied by the response of the colonists to the nascent social doctrine of the eighteenth century. During the French and Indian War there were set to work certain forces which hastened the social and political upheaval called the American Revolution. "Bigoted saints" of the more highly favored sects condescended to grant the rising denominations toleration, the aristocratic elements of colonial society deigned to look more favorably upon those of lower estate, and a large number of leaders began to think that the Negro should be educated and freed. To acquaint themselves with the claims of the underman Americans thereafter prosecuted more seriously the study of Coke, Milton, Locke, and Blackstone. The last of these was then read more extensively in the colonies than in Great Britain. Getting from these writers strange ideas of individual liberty and the social compact theory of man's making in a state of nature government deriving its power from the consent of the governed, the colonists contended more boldly than ever for religious freedom, industrial liberty, and political equality. Given impetus by the diffusion of these ideas, the revolutionary movement became productive of the spirit of universal benevolence. Hearing the contention for natural and inalienable rights, Nathaniel Appleton and John Woolman, were emboldened to carry these theories to their logical conclusion. They attacked not only the oppressors of the colonists but censured also those who denied the Negro race freedom of body and freedom of mind. When John Adams heard James Otis basing his argument against the writs of assistance on the British constitution "founded in the laws of nature," he "shuddered at the doctrine taught and the consequences that might be derived from such premises."
[Footnote 1: Locke, Anti-slavery, etc., p. 19, 20, 23.]
[Footnote 2: Works of John Woolman in two parts, pp. 58 and 73; Moore, Notes on Slavery in Mass., p. 71.]
[Footnote 3: Adams, Works of John Adams, vol. x., p. 315; Moore, Notes on Slavery in Mass., p. 71.]
So effective was the attack on the institution of slavery and its attendant evils that interest in the question leaped the boundaries of religious organizations and became the concern of fair-minded men throughout the country. Not only did Northern men of the type of John Adams and James Otis express their opposition to this tyranny of men's bodies and minds, but Laurens, Henry, Wythe, Mason, and Washington pointed out the injustice of such a policy. Accordingly we find arrayed against the aristocratic masters almost all the leaders of the American Revolution. They favored the policy, first, of suppressing the slave trade, next of emancipating the Negroes in bondage, and finally of educating them for a life of freedom. While students of government were exposing the inconsistency of slaveholding among a people contending for political liberty, and men like Samuel Webster, James Swan, and Samuel Hopkins attacked the institution on economic grounds; Jonathan Boucher, Dr. Rush, and Benjamin Franklin were devising plans to educate slaves for freedom; and Isaac Tatem and Anthony Benezet were actually in the schoolroom endeavoring to enlighten their black brethren.
[Footnote 1: Cobb, Slavery, etc., p. 82.]
[Footnote 2: Madison, Works of, vol. iii., p. 496; Smyth, Works of Franklin, vol. v., p. 431; Washington, Works of Jefferson, vol. ix., p. 163; Brissot de Warville, New Travels, vol. i., p. 227; Proceedings of the American Convention of Abolition Societies, 1794, 1795, 1797.]
[Footnote 3: Webster, A Sermon Preached before the Honorable Council, etc.; Webster, Earnest Address to My Country on Slavery; Swan, A Dissuasion to Great Britain and the Colonies; Hopkins, Dialogue Concerning Slavery.]
[Footnote 4: Boucher, A View of the Causes and Consequences of the American Revolution, p. 39.]
[Footnote 5: Rush, An Address to the Inhabitants of, etc., p. 16.]
[Footnote 6: Smyth, Works of Franklin, vol. iv., p. 23; vol. v., p. 431.]
[Footnote 7: Wickersham, History of Ed. in Pa., p. 249.]
[Footnote 8: Ibid., p. 250; Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed., 1869, p. 375; African Repository, vol. iv., p. 61; Benezet, Observations; Benezet, A Serious Address to the Rulers of America.]
The aim of these workers was not merely to enable the Negroes to take over sufficient of Western civilization to become nominal Christians, not primarily to increase their economic efficiency, but to enlighten them because they are men. To strengthen their position these defendants of the education of the blacks cited the customs of the Greeks and Romans, who enslaved not the minds and wills, but only the bodies of men. Nor did these benefactors fail to mention the cases of ancient slaves, who, having the advantages of education, became poets, teachers, and philosophers, instrumental in the diffusion of knowledge among the higher classes. There was still the idea of Cotton Mather, who was willing to treat his servants as part of the family, and to employ such of them as were competent to teach his children lessons of piety.
[Footnote 1: Meade, Sermons of Thomas Bacon, appendix.]
The chief objection of these reformers to slavery was that its victims had no opportunity for mental improvement. "Othello," a free person of color, contributing to the American Museum in 1788, made the institution responsible for the intellectual rudeness of the Negroes who, though "naturally possessed of strong sagacity and lively parts," were by law and custom prohibited from being instructed in any kind of learning. He styled this policy an effort to bolster up an institution that extinguished the "divine spark of the slave, crushed the bud of his genius, and kept him unacquainted with the world." Dr. McLeod denounced slavery because it "debases a part of the human race" and tends "to destroy their intellectual powers." "The slave from his infancy," continued he, "is obliged implicitly to obey the will of another. There is no circumstance which can stimulate him to exercise his intellectual powers." In his arraignment of this system Rev. David Rice complained that it was in the power of the master to deprive the slaves of all education, that they had not the opportunity for instructing conversation, that it was put out of their power to learn to read, and that their masters kept them from other means of information. Slavery, therefore, must be abolished because it infringes upon the natural right of men to be enlightened.
[Footnote 1: The American Museum, vol. iv., pp. 415 and 511.]
[Footnote 2: McLeod, Negro Slavery, p. 16.]
[Footnote 3: Rice, Speech in the Constitutional Convention of Kentucky, p. 5.]
During this period religion as a factor in the educational progress of the Negroes was not eliminated. In fact, representative churchmen of the various sects still took the lead in advocating the enlightenment of the colored people. These protagonists, however, ceased to claim this boon merely as a divine right and demanded it as a social privilege. Some of the clergy then interested had not at first seriously objected to the enslavement of the African race, believing that the lot of these people would not be worse in this country where they might have an opportunity for enlightenment. But when this result failed to follow, and when the slavery of the Africans' bodies turned out to be the slavery of their minds, the philanthropic and religious proclaimed also the doctrine of enlightenment as a right of man. Desiring to see Negroes enjoy this privilege, Jonathan Boucher, one of the most influential of the colonial clergymen, urged his hearers at the celebration of the Peace of 1763 to improve and emancipate their slaves that they might "participate in the general joy." With the hope of inducing men to discharge the same duty, Bishop Warburton boldly asserted a few years later that slaves are "rational creatures endowed with all our qualities except that of color, and our brethren both by nature and grace." John Woolman, a Quaker minister, influenced by the philosophy of John Locke, began to preach that liberty is the right of all men, and that slaves, being the fellow-creatures of their masters, had a natural right to be elevated.
[Footnote 1: Jonathan Boucher was a rector of the Established Church in Maryland. Though not a promoter of the movement for the political rights of the colonists, Boucher was, however, so moved by the spirit of uplift of the downtrodden that he takes front rank among those who, in emphasizing the rights of servants, caused a decided change in the attitude of white men toward the improvement of Negroes. Boucher was not an immediate abolitionist. He abhorred slavery, however, to the extent that he asserted that if ever the colonies would be improved to their utmost capacity, an essential part of that amelioration had to be the abolition of slavery. His chief concern then was the cultivation of the minds in order to make amends for the drudgery to their bodies. See Boucher, Causes, etc., p. 39.]
[Footnote 2: Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 363.]
[Footnote 3: An influential minister of the Society of Friends and an extensive traveler through the colonies, Woolman had an opportunity to do much good in attacking the policy of those who kept their Negroes in deplorable ignorance, and in commending the good example of those who instructed their slaves in reading. In his Considerations on the Keeping of Slaves he took occasion to praise the Friends of North Carolina for the unusual interest they manifested in the cause at their meetings during his travels in that colony about the year 1760. With such workers as Woolman in the field it is little wonder that Quakers thereafter treated slaves as brethren, alleviated their burdens, enlightened their minds, emancipated and cared for them until they could provide for themselves. See Works of John Woolman in two parts, pp. 58 and 73.]
Thus following the theories of the revolutionary leaders these liberal-minded men promulgated along with the doctrine of individual liberty that of the freedom of the mind. The best expression of this advanced idea came from the Methodist Episcopal Church, which reached the acme of antislavery sentiment in 1784. This sect then boldly declared: "We view it as contrary to the golden law of God and the prophets, and the inalienable rights of mankind as well as every principle of the Revolution to hold in deepest abasement, in a more abject slavery than is perhaps to be found in any part of the world, except America, so many souls that are capable of the image of God."